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Burma’s Free Election Aftermath

For a country that has experienced almost nothing but misery, abuses, and economic mismanagement since the army first took power in 1962, the scenes from Sunday’s by-elections in the new, civilian Burmese parliament seemed nothing short of miraculous. The military’s favored party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), took a paltry handful of seats.

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As the jubilation continues among Burmese democrats, some realities are starting to sink in. The victory in the by-elections, though enormous, will still only give the National League for Democracy (NLD) a small percentage of seats in parliament.

The party will still have to contend with dominance by the military’s favored party, and rely on the fragile health of President Thein Sein to help keep the reforms going. In a new piece for The New Republic, I analyze the election aftermath.

For a country that has experienced almost nothing but misery, abuses, and economic mismanagement since the army first took power in 1962, the scenes from Sunday’s by-elections in the new, civilian Burmese parliament seemed nothing short of miraculous. The military’s favored party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), took a paltry handful of seats.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been under arrest just two years ago, won a parliamentary seat. And her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), swept to an overwhelming triumph, apparently taking 43 out of the 44 seats it contested. As the election results began to trickle out Sunday, thousands of supporters of the NLD gathered at the party headquarters in Rangoon to dance, sing all night long, share sweets, and await a speech by their leader. As one man watching the street celebrations told the Irrawaddy, an exile publication focusing on Burma, “Now the world will know who is who, and what is what”—meaning that now the world will know that the Burmese people still support Suu Kyi and the NLD, even after so many years of repression.

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Myanmar Election Aftermath

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